UH Doctoral Student Selected for Prestigious Psychology Fellowship - University of Houston
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UH Doctoral Student Selected for Prestigious Psychology Fellowship

Doctoral student Dieu Truong is working to expand support services to families of children with autism.

Posted Nov. 11, 2019 – Dieu Truong, a school psychology student at the University of Houston College of Education, has been selected for the nationally competitive American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship Program.

Specifically, she was one of only 13 students accepted into the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Predoctoral Fellowship for 2019 – 20.

As a fellow, Truong will receive funding to continue her work investigating the effects of autism in children and extending resources to support families. Her research specialty, focusing on Asian American families, sets her apart in the field.

“This is a very important area of work that has had relatively little attention,” said College of Education Associate Professor Sarah Mire, an expert in autism. “Dieu is a person who will change this.”

Truong, a fourth-year doctoral student, said she was shocked when she received the acceptance letter for the fellowship. Self-doubt over her English skills clouded her excitement at first, so she forwarded the message to friends to confirm the good news.

“It was unbelievable,” she said. “It’s a lifetime change for me.”

Truong said she’s motivated by social justice. Since moving from Vietnam to Houston at age 15, she’s seen a lack of resources available to Asian immigrants and Asian Americans. While working at community mental health centers, she said she witnessed several non-English-speaking families encounter obstacles. Translators or parent-teacher groups weren’t always available to accommodate Asian families, especially in a culturally sensitive way

“Current research consistently shows there is a gap in providing culturally and linguistically sensitive services to families from Asian cultures,” she said. “I aim to change this through my research by bringing awareness of the historical and sociocultural experiences of Asian and Asian American families.”

Truong’s years of working with families of color in community mental health and school settings led her to the field of school psychology. She said she chose the UH College of Education program because of its comprehensive approach and opportunities to continue to serve traditionally underrepresented families. She had graduated from UH in 2011 with bachelor’s degrees in psychology and human development and family studies before returning to pursue her Ph.D. in 2016.

Last year, Truong was the research assistant in the UH School Psychology Autism Research Collaboration, a lab directed by professor Mire. UH*sparc focuses on helping children with autism and supporting families, school officials and clinicians. Truong’s duties on the team included data collection, analysis, organization and recruiting for research projects.

“Not only does she have the passion for this critical work, she has the intellectual curiosity and capability,” said Mire, who serves as associate chair of the College’s Department of Psychological, Health, & Learning Sciences. “Dieu is strategic about bringing people and ideas together to accomplish goals, and she takes great initiative to do this — not only in Houston but far beyond.”

Truong credits the College for preparing her to help change lives, providing resources and connections to advance in her research career.

“Through this rigorous program, I’ve learned to take things slow and look at the details,” she said. “I’m paving the road for someone else in the future by becoming a leader in uncharted territory today.”

— By Alberto Huichapa

— Photo by Jaime Questell